Savage Dawn (1985)

Ben Stryker an ex-green beret stops off at a little town called Agua Dolee to visit an old friend Tick Rand. Soon after riding into town on his Suzuki and settling in. A motorcycle gang known as ‘The Savages’ who’s led by tyrant Pigiron invade and finally take over the place. Stryker doesn’t want to get involved, but that changes when he friends become the actual targets.

Is there anything good to say about this scuzzy item? Tough call, as the only fundamental reason to watch this low-budget car wreck is for the tremendous b-cast the crew managed to get hold off for this project. While I don’t think it’s a complete botch job, it’s not terribly good either. Now what a cast! Lance Henriksen (being the main character, he strangely doesn’t have top billing, but the final one), Karen Black, George Kennedy, Richard Lynch, Bill Forsythe, Mickey Jones and Leo Gordon. Now what went wrong with this scummy low-budget bungle. The shallowness of the material is too one-dimensional that it heavily borrows ideas from better movies (namely Mad Max) and comes up with a complete mess of ideas that just don’t gel and could have been better thought out. The clich├ęs that are used can be manipulated into a good viewing, despite being predictable, but “Savage Dawn” seems to let it skimpily rush all by without letting the viewer soak it all up. The cast are mostly wasted in nothing roles. A bleached-blonde Henriksen is capably solid and even with his commending presence that provides an enigmatic glow to his character. He doesn’t get up to hell of a lot and sometimes goes missing in action. Too much sideline action, but when he did kick some bikers’ ass, the good times flowed. Karen Black’s hissing performance is a very odd one and is all about the screaming and cursing. Although she does get into one memorable catfight with Claudia Udy’s flirtatious vixen character Katie. A wheelchair bound George Kennedy roams around aimlessly until the final assault and Richard Lynch looks embarrassed as a wayward priest / town mayor in a very redundant role. An on edge Bill Forsythe simply chews it up as the head honcho of the notorious biker pack.

The junky story (written by William Milling and Max Bloom) has that cheesy comic book getup and very much is influenced by the western genre. Just look at the villains for that. How they came up with their names is mystery. Maybe they drew them out of a hat. It’s pretty second rate material that more often moves onto one lacklustre scene after another. Unfunny comical elements are chucked in and as well a bit of sleaze. Tacky exploitation that doesn’t get gritty enough and the deaths are quite laughable. A clumsy script is filled convoluted details and unbearable trite. Simon Nuchtern’s spotty direction was by the numbers and tepidly laid out. One or two intense scenes can’t makeup for its tortoise-like pacing and many cack-handed stunts. The cardboard sets had down ‘n dirty look, but lack that organic sense. The gravel-like cinematography by Gerald Feil was better handled when the main focus wasn’t on the town, but on the desolate backdrop (like the beginning and ending climax of the film) with some neat camera touches. Pino Donaggio’s clunky music choices are drowned out by its own incompetence.

“Savage Dawn” is a forgettable quickie midnight movie that’s a definite misfire for most part. There are better and more convincing exercises of the same ilk out there.